In Maharashtra, over 50 per cent development fund yet to be used

In Maharashtra, over 50 per cent development fund yet to be used

LESS THAN three weeks before the end of the financial year, more than half the funds budgeted for development work in 2016-17 remains unspent in Mahar

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LESS THAN three weeks before the end of the financial year, more than half the funds budgeted for development work in 2016-17 remains unspent in Maharashtra, according to the state finance department’s website .

Of the Rs 89,778 crore budgeted for Plan spending this year, Rs 46,809 crore remained unutilised till March 13, reveal official estimates. This roughly translates into non-utilisation of 52 per cent of the budgeted amount.

A Plan spending refers to expenditure on development and new asset generation works. It includes all capital expenditure, but does not include payment of salaries, loan payments, pensions and other recurring expenditures.

The utilisation numbers refer to the department-wise expenditure statistics uploaded on the Maharashtra government’s live online budget monitoring system, referred to as Budget Estimation, Allocation, and Monitoring System (BEAMS). It also does not account for flows for public account transactions such as provident funds deposits etc.

Records show that the state’s housing department has the worst budget utilisation ratio. While the Devendra Fadnavis government had set aside Rs 1,968 crore for various affordable housing projects at the start of the year, the latest spend estimates reveal that the department has so far spent just Rs 94 crore, which translates into less than 5 per cent of the budgeted amount.

A senior state official blamed it on the delay in kicking off some flagship housing initiatives like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and the Ramai Awas Yojana (RAY). In November 2016, tenders for turnkey building projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) under the PMAY, totalling Rs 3612 crore, were cancelled following allegations of irregularities. It took the government a couple of months to brush aside the accusations and refloat these tenders. The contracts are yet to be awarded.

But a senior housing department official pointed out that the finance department has released only Rs 94 crore so far, all of which has been utilised. Finance department officials, however, blamed the inaccurate projection by the department at the start of the year for the poor showing.

Records show that the state’s finance department has so far released nearly 77 per cent (Rs 68,915 crore) of the total budgeted amount for Plan spending.

A senior state official admitted that the “poor” spending ratio of development funds from the state’s kitty was a let-down, especially when the government has been targeting off-budget borrowings for funding key big ticket infrastructure projects citing a rising public debt. By the end of March this year, the state’s total debt burden is projected to cross the Rs 3.56 lakh crore mark. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the state’s debt stock has risen by over 124 per cent.

One of the worst performers in the budget utilisation numbers was the General Administration Department led by the chief minister. The department has so far utilised less than 12 per cent of the development funds budgeted for it. In fact, records show that there are as many as eight departments, including housing and GAD, where utilisation of the budgeted funds is below 35 per cent. The other six departments include finance (10 pc), law and judiciary (27 pc), water supply (28 pc), employment (24 pc), industry, energy and labour (28 pc), and the legislative secretariat (16 pc).

Some bureaucrats blamed restrictions following the imposition of the model code of conduct for the month-and-a-half-long local body polls in the state, but others accepted that this ought to have been accounted for while planning the budget itself.

Meanwhile, the crucial water resources department has recorded the best budget utilisation. As on March 13, the department had spent Rs 7,401 crore of the Rs 7,782 crore budgeted for it in 2016-17, which is roughly 95 pc utilisation. In an election year, the public health department (67 pc) and the women and child development department (also 67 pc) have recorded the next best numbers.

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